Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Twins, Again

I honestly expected to the Sox to take three out of four in Detroit. The Buehrle loss wasn't a surprise but I didn't see the Contreras meltdown coming. The last thing this team needs is another unreliable starter.

The Sox end up losing a half game in the wildcard standings to the Twins after the split as Minnesota took two of three against the Orioles. The Sox are now only a half game up on the Twins as the two teams start a critical series at the Cell on Friday. It will be up to Javier Vasquez to hold on to the wildcard lead Friday as he takes on Brad Radke in the series opener.

I thought it might be a fun exercise to break down Vasquez' starts to show just how bad his one inning meltdowns have been this season. So I produced a chart that pulls out Javier's worst inning (or partial inning if he was pulled - which of course is not the case most of the time) and compared them to his non-meltdown innings.

Now this is sort of a pointless exercise as you can do this for any pitcher and his numbers are going to show a huge disparity. But I have to believe the ERA gap between Vasquez' good innings compared to his meltdown innings would have to be among the league leaders if you were to keep track of such a stat.

Melt Down Inning21.1596124.92761211124.08
The Rest12827301.90846301100.89

As you can see, for most of the game, 85% of his innings pitched, Vasquez pitches like a Cy Young candidate: less than a runner per inning pitched; almost a K per inning pitched; and only six homers allowed in 128 innings.

However, looking at his worst inning from each game shows you what a basketcase Vasquez can be. He has given up 76 hits in 21.1 IP, nearly as many as he has in the other 128. He has given 61 runs in his bad innings, more than double the amount he has given up in the remaining 128.

In 24 starts, Vasquez has given up at least 3 runs in one inning 12 times. In nine games, Vasquez has entered an inning with a lead only to give up multiple runs and finish the inning with the Sox trailing.

I don't have any explanation for his meltdowns. I can only hope it just a case of randomness and dumb luck. But with meltdowns that bad, I have to think there is more to it.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

No Power Mauer

Joe Mauer is getting some buzz in the AL MVP race despite some pretty weak power numbers. Yes, he does have a slugging percentage .516, but that is being propped up by his abnormally high batting average of .359 (abnormal because that .382 BAPIP isn’t sustainable). Mauer’s Isolated Power number is a much more modest .159, good enough for 45th in the American League, sandwiched between Curtis Granderson and Michael Young.

Mauer has been getting a recent MVP push from the Baseball Prospectus crowd, first in an article by Joe Sheehan, and then in a chat with Rany Jazayerli. Now, I didn’t read BP back in 2001, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if this same group criticized Ichiro’s MVP award that was won under similar circumstances.

Sheehan also wrote in his article:

The least-interesting factor in this discussion, yet the one likely to move at least some names on some ballots come late September, is team performance. I think it’s interesting that the Tigers, the best team in the AL, have no one in the discussion. The A’s and White Sox, who could both make the postseason, lack MVP candidates as well.
Talk about no respect. Dye was leading the league in slugging at the time this article was written and Dye and Thome are two of only six players with an OPS of over 1.000 in the American League. I don't think either one is a favorite but I would call them both legitimate MVP candidates.

But back to Mauer . When you take a closer look, Mauer just doesn’t stack up against some of the other contenders in the MVP race:


I could see giving an edge to Mauer in a close race because of his defense behind the plate, but I just don’t think the race is that close. His powers numbers are dwarfed by Hafner, Dye, Ortiz and Ramirez and I don't think you should be able to single your way into an MVP award.

Mauer does play a very important defensive position. But defense in baseball is more of a commodity than offense and should be rewarded as such. I’m sure the Henry Blanco fan club will be disappointed.

I can see Mauer winning an MVP award once he gets his “man muscles”, but not this year. Don’t feel too bad for him, he has another trophy waiting for him after the season ends.

And yes, I know by writing this Mauer is going to hit at least three home runs this weekend against the Sox.

That's Strange

Both Brian Roberts and Johnny Damon led off with a home run in the Yankees/Orioles game this afternoon, Roberts fifth of the year and Damon's eighteenth.

An hour later, David DeJesus and Pablo Ozuna do the same in the Royals/Sox game. It was even more unlikely in the White Sox game as it was the seventh homer of the year for DeJesus and only second for Ozuna.

UPDATE: The Sox/Royals game also had both leadoff batters (Brown, Dye) lead off the second inning with home runs, which according to the ESPN scroll was the first time in MLB history both leadoff batters in the first and second innings hit a home run.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Cooper Interview

The White Sox starting pitching has started to come around and the team is looking like a World Series contender again.

Apropos of the resurgent staff, Jeff Angus has multiple posts of an interview with Don Cooper over at his Management by Baseball blog. The interview gives you a good idea of the White Sox organization's pitching philosphy and some insights into what Cooper has his starters working on as they try to get through this rough patch.